Gates explores boundaries between forces of containment, cyclical time and rebirth. A poppy, Papaver rhoeas, is a flower that has symbolic significance for many cultures across continental Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
In Eastern European cultures, Papaver rhoeas was a symbol of agricultural fertility for centuries, as it was the first flower to come up in the spring and signified the health of the soil. Dating back from 3500-6000 BC indigenous people in the region domesticated Papaver somniferum, and in regional and cultural communities the poppy remains a central feature in folk dress and embroidery. However, as one of the oldest domesticated plants, there is evidence that this flower was originally native to the Middle East and was cultivated by the ancient Sumerian people. In Turkey, the region of Anatolia is named after the flower, and in ancient Greece, poppies symbolized eternal sleep.
Gates traces the movement of poppies across the globe as a symbolic marker of human geography and the movement of people through centuries. Papaver rhoeas is deeply resonant in many folklore traditions, yet it is also a flower that suggests a common history and shared knowledge across time.
Following the Second World War, poppies were the first flower to come up in the trenches where soldiers had fought and died. Associated with the stain of blood, the poppy has become an enduring symbol of remembrance in Canada, most notably in the poem "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae.
Mediating symbolism inherent in poppies as signifiers of both containment and rebirth, this work draws allusion to human narratives of forced imprisonment, war and also of regeneration and humanity.
In this work, groups of Papaver rhoeas are planted within a series of enclosed 'gates'. As the poppies eventually push their way out of these spaces of confinement, the soft petals of the plants will erode and reshape the enclosures.